« VorigeDoorgaan »
three before mentioned." He adds, that sometimes the witches will rather endure the misery of the above torments than appear, "by reason country people ofttimes will fall upon them, and scratch and abuse them shrewdly."
I find the following in Articles to be enquired of within the Archdeaconry of Yorke, by the Church Wardens and Sworne Men, A. D. 163— (any year till 1640), 4to. Lond. b. l.: "Whether there be any man or woman in your parish that useth witchcraft, sorcery, charmes, or unlawfull prayer, or invocations in Latine or English, or otherwise, upon any Christian body or beast, or any that resorteth to the same for counsell or helpe?"
Some persons were supposed by the popular belief to have the faculty of distinguishing witches. These were called witch-finders. Matthew Hopkins, one of the most celebrated witch-finders of his day, is supposed to have been alluded to by Butler, in the following lines of Hudibras, II. iii. 139:
"Has not this present parliament
And some for sitting above ground
And made a rod for his own breech."
The old, the ignorant, and the indigent (says Granger), such as could neither plead their own cause nor hire an advocate, were the miserable victims of this wretch's credulity, spleen, and avarice. He pretended to be a great critic in special marks, which were only moles, scorbutic spots, or warts, which frequently grow large and pendulous in old age, but were absurdly supposed to be teats to suckle imps. His ultimate method of proof was by tying together the thumbs and toes of the suspected person, about whose waist was fastened a cord, the ends of which were held on the banks of a river, by two men, in whose power it was to strain or slacken it.
The experiment of swimming was at length tried upon Hopkins himself, in his own way, and he was, upon the event,
condemned, and, as it seems, executed, as a wizard. Hopkins had hanged, in one year, no less than sixty reputed witches in his own county of Essex. See Granger's Biographical History, 1775, ii. 409. Compare also Dr. Grey's Notes on Hudibras, ii. 11, 12, 13.
In Gardiner's England's Grievance in Relation to the Coal Trade, p. 107, we have an account that, in 1649 and 1650, the magistrates of Newcastle-upon-Tyne sent into Scotland to agree with a Scotchman, who pretended knowledge to find out witches by pricking them with pins. They agreed to give him twenty shillings a-piece for all he could condemn, and bear his travelling expenses. On his arrival the bellman was sent through the town to invite all persons that would bring in any complaint against any woman for a witch, that she might be sent for and tried by the persons appointed. Thirty women were, on this, brought into the town-hall and stripped, and then openly had pins thrust into their bodies, about twenty-seven of whom he found guilty. His mode was, in the sight of all the people, to lay the body of the person suspected naked to the waist, and then he ran a pin into her thigh, and then suddenly let her coats fall, demanding whether she had nothing of his in her body but did not bleed; the woman, through fright and shame, being amazed, replied little; then he put his hand up her coats and pulled out the pin, setting her aside as a guilty person and a child of the devil. By this sort of evidence, one wizard and fourteen witches were tried and convicted at the assizes, and afterwards executed. Their names are recorded in the parish register of St. Andrew's. See Brand's History of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Nash, in his History of Worcestershire, ii. 38, tells us that, "14th May, 1660, four persons accused of witchcraft were brought from Kidderminster to Worcester Gaol, one Widow Robinson, and her two daughters, and a man. The eldest daughter was accused of saying that, if they had not been taken, the king should never have come to England; and, though he now doth come, yet he shall not live long, but shall die as ill a death as they; and that they would have made corn like pepper. Many great charges against them, and little proved, they were put to the ducking in the river: they would not sink, but swam aloft. The man had five teats, the woman three, and the eldest daughter one. When they went to search
the women none were visible; one advised to lay them on their backs and keep open their mouths, and then they would appear; and so they presently appeared in sight."
The Doctor adds that "it is not many years since a poor woman, who happened to be very ugly, was almost drowned in the neighbourhood of Worcester, upon a supposition of witchcraft; and had not Mr. Lygon, a gentleman of singular humanity and influence, interfered in her behalf, she would certainly have been drowned, upon a presumption that a witch could not sink."
It appears from a Relation printed by Matthews, in Long Acre, London, that, in the year 1716, Mrs. Hicks, and her daughter, aged nine years, were hanged in Huntingdon for witchcraft, for selling their souls to the devil, tormenting and destroying their neighbours, by making them vomit pins, raising a storm, so that a ship was almost lost, by pulling off her stockings, and making a lather of soap.
By the severe laws once in force against witches, to the disgrace of humanity, great numbers of innocent persons, distressed with poverty and age, were brought to violent and untimely ends. By the 33 Henry VIII. c. viii. the law adjudged all Witchcraft and Sorcery to be felony without benefit of clergy. By statute 1 Jac. I. c. xii. it was ordered that all persons invoking any evil spirit, or consulting, covenanting with, entertaining, employing, feeding, or rewarding any evil spirit; or taking up dead bodies from their graves to be used in any witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment, or killing or otherwise hurting any person by such infernal arts, should be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy, and suffer death. And if any person should attempt by sorcery to discover hidden treasure, or to restore stolen goods, or to provoke unlawful love, or to hurt any man or beast, though the same were not effected, he or she should suffer imprisonment and pillory for the first offence, and death for the second.
On March 11, 1618, Margaret and Philip Flower, daughters of Joane Flower, were executed at Lincoln for the supposed crime of bewitching Henry Lord Rosse, eldest son of Francis Manners, Earl of Rutland, and causing his death; also, for most barbarously torturing by a strange sickness Francis, second son of the said Earl, and Lady Katherine, his daughter; and also, for preventing, by their diabolical arts, the said earl
and his countess from having any more children. They were tried at the Lent Assizes before Sir Henry Hobart, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Sir Edward Bromley, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, and cast by the evidence of their own confessions. To effect the death of Lord Henry "there was a glove of the said Lord Henry buried in the ground, and, as that glove did rot and waste, so did the liver of the said lord rot and waste." The spirit employed on the occasion, called Rutterkin, appears not to have had the same power over the lives of Lord Francis and Lady Katherine. Margaret Flower confessed that she had "two familiar spirits sucking on her, the one white, the other black-spotted. The white sucked under her left breast, the black-spotted," &c. When she first entertained them, she promised them her soul, and they covenanted to do all things which she commanded them.
In the Diary of Robert Birrell, preserved in Fragments of Scottish History, 4to. Edinb., 1708, are inserted some curious memorials of persons suffering death for witchcraft in Scotland. 1591, 25 of Junii, Euphane M'Kalzen ves brunt for vitchcrafte. 1529. The last of Februarii, Richard Grahame wes brunt at ye Crosse of Edinburghe, for vitchcrafte and sorcery. 1593. The 19 of May, Katherine Muirhead brunt for vitchcrafte, quha confest sundrie poynts therof. 1603. The 21 of Julii, James Reid brunt for consulting and useing with Sathan and witches, and quha wes notably knawin to be ane counsellor with witches. 1605. July 24th day, Henrie Lowrie brunt on the Castel Hill, for witchcrafte done and committed be him in Kyle, in the parochin." The following is from the Gent. Mag. for 1775, xlv. 601: "Nov. 15. Nine old women were burnt at Kalisk, in Poland, charged with having bewitched and rendered unfruitful the lands belonging to a gentleman in that palatinate." For the Manks Statutes (Train's History of the Isle of Man, v. ii. p. 167).
By statute 9 Geo. II. c. v. it was enacted that no prosecution should in future be carried on against any person for conjuration, witchcraft, sorcery, or enchantment. However, the misdemeanour of persons pretending to use witchcraft, tell fortunes, or discover stolen goods by skill in the occult sciences, is still deservedly punished with a year's imprisonment, and till recently by standing four times in the
pillory. Thus the Witch Act, a disgrace to the code of English laws, was not repealed till 1736.
In the Statistical Account of Scotland, v. 240, parish of Old Kilpatrick, co. Dumbarton, we read: "The history of the Bargarran witches, in the neighbouring parish of Erskine, is well known to the curious. That this parish in the dark ages partook of the same frenzy, and that innocent persons were sacrificed at the shrine of cruelty, bigotry, and superstition, cannot be concealed. As late as the end of the last century a woman was burnt for witchcraft at Sandyford, near the village, and the bones of the unfortunate victim were lately found at the place. Ibid. p. 454, parish of Spott, co. East Lothian, Parochial Records. "1698: The Session, after a long examination of witnesses, refer the case of Marion Lillie, for imprecations and supposed witchcraft, to the Presbytery, who refer her for trial to the civil magistrate. Said Marion generally called the Rigwoody Witch. Oct. 1705: Many witches burnt on the top of Spott loan." Ibid. vii. 280, parish of East Monkland, co. Lanark: "Upon a rising ground there is still to be seen an upright granite stone, where, it is said, in former times they burnt those imaginary criminals called witches.' Ibid. viii. 177, parish of Newburgh, co. Fife: "Tradition continues to preserve the memory of the spot in the lands belonging to the town of Newburgh, on which more than one unfortunate victim fell a sacrifice to the superstition of former times, intent on punishing the crime of witchcraft. The humane provisions of the legislature, joined to the superior knowledge which has, of late years, pervaded all ranks of men in society, bid fair to prevent the return of a frenzy which actuated our forefathers universally, and with fatal violence." The following is extracted from the Parish Records: “Newburgh, Sept. 18, 1653. The minister gave in against Kath'rine Key severall poynts that had come to his hearing, which he desyred might be put to tryell. 1. That, being refused milk, the kow gave nothing but red blood; and being sent for to sie the kow, she clapped (stroked) the kow, and said the kow will be well, and thereafter the kow becam weill. 2. (A similar charge.) 3. That the minister and his wife, having ane purpose to take ane child of theirs from the said Kathrine, which she had in nursing, the child would suck none woman's breast, being only one quarter old; but, being brought again